Workers at Amazon warehouses could spend time in cages if the company implements a device for which it holds a U.S. patent.
The patent, titled “System and method for transporting personnel within an active workspace,” seeks to create a work environment in which humans can enter areas where robots rule, without damage to the humans, the Daily Mail reported.
A drawing accompanying the patent shows a cage-like enclosure on top of the type of robotic trolleys that move goods around Amazon warehouses, the Boston Herald reported.
The patent was granted in 2016. Amazon first began designing the device in 2013.
The patent was called “an extraordinary illustration of worker alienation, a stark moment in the relationship between humans and machines” by researchers who highlighted it in a study published Friday.
An Amazon patent put humans in cages and let robots roam free https://t.co/H2Yy9vbVeb
— Fast Company (@FastCompany) September 11, 2018
“Here, the worker becomes a part of a machinic ballet, held upright in a cage which dictates and constrains their movement,” said the study by Kate Crawford of the AI Now Institute at New York University and Vladan Joler, a professor of new media at the University of Novi Sad in Serbia.
Putting workers in moving cages would let them “get to a destination location within or across the workspace, such as a restroom located a significant distance from the user,” the patent said.
i'm thinking of how people are interpreting the article about the safety cage concept that was developed for Amazon warehouses. It makes sense if you consider the kinds of accidents which industrial robots (not sure about Amazon, but certainly in factories) have caused.
— Chenoe Hart (@chenoehart) September 8, 2018
Despite having the patent, Amazon said it won’t be putting its workers in cages any time soon.
“Like many companies, we file a number of forward-looking patent applications,” said Lindsay Campbell, an Amazon spokeswoman, according to the Seattle Times.
Dave Clark, Amazon’s senior vice president of operations, denied that the system was currently being used.
Sometimes even bad ideas get submitted for patents. This was never used and we have no plans for usage. We developed a far better solution which is a small vest associates can wear that cause all robotic drive units in their proximity to stop moving.
— Dave Clark (@davehclark) September 8, 2018
“Sometimes even bad ideas get submitted for patents,” Clark tweeted. “This was never used and we have no plans for usage.”
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